A Depression Case Study
When September 11, 2001, came around, everybody forgot about anything else that had been in the news. But what took place in Houston three months earlier shocked the world. Frankly, it was easier to comprehend the crazed fanaticism of some Islamic terrorists, with all of their hatred for America, than what a young mother did.
On June 20, 2001, Andrea Yates drowned her 5 children (4 boys, 1 girl) one-by one in 9 inches of water in her bathtub. She had sat them all down for breakfast, then one by one took them to the bathroom to drown them. 7-year-old Noah, the oldest, went to see where everyone had gone, then saw his little sister, only 6 months old, floating in the bathtub. His mother then chased him, finally drowning him face-down beside the floating body of the infant.
Ultimately, after initially being charged with murder and looking at the death penalty, Andrea Yates was eventually cleared of the murder charges and on July 26, 2006, was declared not guilty by reason of insanity. Why was this verdict handed down? Because it became very clear that Andrea Yates had been experiencing depression for a long time (since age 17), but by her fourth child was suffering from full-blown postpartum psychosis (worse than depression, and far more dangerous is left untreated).
The Yates did not attend church, but held Bible studies at home. Their spiritual leader was an itinerate preacher, Michael Woroniecki, who regularly sent out newsletters, personal letters, and video tapes. After doing a lot of research into the case, it became very obvious to me that Andrea and Rusty (her husband) Yates lived a very secluded, paranoid, legalistic, religious life. And I believe this un-biblical, legalistic theology that the Yates practiced had a lot to do with a mother did to her own children.
You see, as a former follower of Michael Woroniecki, David De Le Isla, said, “In her thinking she was doomed to hell, her kids were going to hell, and that the only way she could save them was by killing them.” From the things that Andrea Yates had been hearing, both from her husband and Woroniecki, depression was a sin, therefore her depression and any connected medication, were nothing more than evils which needed to be repented of. Andrea Yates, in her pitiful state of untreated psychosis; destitute of a caring group of friends and family – particularly a church family; indoctrinated with a false gospel bereft of grace; literally acted out of love for her children’s eternal souls and drowned them.
And some people wonder why I hate legalism.
And other people wonder why I worry for people who call themselves Christian, yet “forsake the assembling of themselves together” and shun the value of motivating each other to acts of love and good works (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Medicine and the Bible
Should a Christian take medication? Should a follower of Jesus Christ, one whose faith is in Him for all things, resort to taking medication for depression? If it’s needed, then yes!
God has ordained physical means to health. Sometimes there are physical, biological issues in play, and simply depending upon God to take care of them may cross the line of presumption. When the Lord has designed us in such a way that water quenches the thirsty throat (Mark 9:31), or wine calms the stomach (1 Tim. 5:23), or a balm heals the wound (Jer. 8:22), or oil heals the sick (Ezek. 16:9), is it out of the question to then accept that a modern-day “apothecary” could create/develop a medicine to aid in the mental functions affected by biological/physical/natural deficiencies?
We must depend on God for all things, but we must give thanks to God for all things. We can thankfully accept, using discernment and wisdom, those things, like medication, which may help with depression, should the cause be physically related. However, great caution must be taken to determine beforehand whether or not the depression from which one suffers is the result of something biological or spiritual.
Taking medication, even for depression, is no more a sin than taking an aspirin, applying an antibiotic, or using a bandage.
Depression Is NOT a SIN – Lack of Faith Is.
Depression and a Lack of Faith are not the same, even though a lack of faith might contribute to depression. In the case of Andrea Yates, depression was already at work, but it was exacerbated by faulty theology, a lack of support, and a complete lack of grace.
Romans 14:23 states that whatever “is not of faith is sin.” There are plenty of reasons why people can become depressed, but that doesn’t mean they are committing any kind of sin. As a matter of fact, I can’t help but think of Job in the Old Testament as a great example of this fact. Job had multiple reasons to feel depressed, yet he never lost faith. Even in his pain he cried out, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him…” (Job 13:15).
But interestingly enough, the word “depression” is not in the Bible (unless it’s in a new translation). However, some biblical words that describe the same thing are: words such as downcast, brokenhearted, troubled, miserable, despairing, mourning are all linked to what we would understand in the modern context to be circumstantial depression, at least. Base on what we can read of the lives of not only Job, but several others, depression was not uncommon, even among the most faithful.
Depressed People in the Bible
Sometimes we may wonder how God could use someone who battles with depression. Sometimes we may even wonder how someone who is actually being used by the Lord can get depressed.
For further study, why not consider the following people in the Bible? Consider how the Word of God describes their emotions in each situation, and then try to determine if the feelings being expressed were sinful, acceptable, or a reasonable reaction to the situation.
- David – 2 Samuel 12:15-23 (his newborn); 18:33 (Absalom)
- Elijah – 1 Kings 19:4
- Job – Physical pain, personal loss, even persecution from friends. See Job 3:11; 3:26; 10:1; and 30:15-17.
- Jonah – see 4:3 and 9
- Jeremiah – “The weeping Prophet” See 20:14-18
“The LORD [is] near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.” – Psalm 34:18 NKJV
“He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3 NKJV
“He heard my cry…brought me out of the horrible pit…” – Psalm 40:1-3
I don’t know about you, but when it comes to depression, I don’t have to feel alone, even if no one else understands what I am going through. When all else fails, I can still hold on to the truth that Jesus Christ knows exactly what it feels like to be me! He knows exactly what it feels like to be YOU!
First off, Isaiah 53:3 spoke of the coming Messiah as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” Mark 14:34-35 speaks of Jesus as “exceedingly sorrowful.” So, even though the Son of Righteousness was God in flesh, Emmanuel, He still understood what if felt like to have “the blues.”
But secondly, and even more importantly (in my opinion), Jesus understands what it feels like when our depression IS sin, or at the very least a result of sin. How is this possible?
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV
“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:4-5 ESV
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” – 1 Peter 2:24 ESV
It never fails to amaze me how so many of our questions can lead us straight back to the Cross.
A Word from C. H. Spurgeon
Around 3,000 years ago King David wrote, “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again–my Savior and my God!” – Psalm 42:11 NLT
A more recent (1834-1892) author and preacher, the “Prince of Preachers,” the great Charles Hadden Spurgeon, wrote something very similar, and I personally find it very encouraging. Few modern pastors or Christian authors – even secular ones – could hope to reach the pinnacle of success that C. H. Spurgeon reached; yet, even though he fought bitterly with unexplained fits of debilitating depression, he said the following:
“I am the subject of depression so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to. But I always get back again by this–I know that I trust Christ. I have no reliance but in Him, and if He falls, I shall fall with Him. But if He does not, I shall not. Because He lives, I shall live also, and I spring to my legs again and fight with my depressions of spirit and get the victory through it. And so may you do, and so you must, for there is no other way of escaping from it.” (12.298)
I hope this third post on depression was helpful in some way. You are not alone, you don’t have to go through it alone, and there is Hope.